Must the Sun Set on the West?

I wish I had come up with this clever title. I owe it to Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi. The title comes from a series of lectures based on his book The Book That Made Your World in which he helps the reader understand the root cause of the West’s decline and what must be done to reverse it. He and other Christian leaders are sounding the proverbial alarm. The decline of Christianity continues to be a popular topic in Evangelical circles today. For example, the latest Barna studies report that only 4% of Gen-Zers (those born after 1996) have a Biblical worldview.1 In the same study, James Emery White, professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary concludes that we are for the first time truly post-Christian.

Many popular Christian apologists and evangelists try to avoid being labeled alarmist in their views by insinuating a doom and gloom picture of the state of Christianity. But it is challenging when the church is confused in that we don’t know whether to jump on the bandwagon (hopeless) or circle it (apologetics and evangelism). The prevailing culture seems to support neither. Ligonier ministries conducts an annual study to measure Evangelical’s responses to doctrinal questions. Last year, one of the statements was “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam” to which 51% of Evangelicals agree.2 This is just one example to show the widening gap between the church’s educational efforts and the outcomes it purports to achieve.

There are several popular ways to stem the retreat to into secularism. Some Christian leaders such as Greg Laurie promote their Harvest Crusades in the pulpit and radio. Others like Ravi Zacharias promote apologetics as solutions. The efficacy of these activities will obviously depend on the working of the Holy Spirit to transform lives as any activity involving changed hearts is concerned. However, there might be another way to go about this. A way that is less obtrusive, given the current sensibilities of our culture; perhaps it is through capitalism. Capitalism, not so much the kind imbued with partisan politics that triggers protest from a new generation. Nor the kind that elicits debate about what form of economic model that works. I am advocating the resetting of capitalism in a Weberian sense.

The message of the good news remain unchanged in this strategy. We are only using capitalism as a social carrier. Imagine today, entire neighborhoods, city blocks being restored, elevating human dignity whenever and wherever prosperity extends its reaches. A Weberian understanding of capitalism uncovers the second highest value (second greatest commandment) of all — brotherly love.3 Love may not be a prime motivator for businesses. However, it is operationally, if not intentionally, altruistic.4 Pastor and theologian Chris Brooks recognizes this point. He sees Detroit, (once the most innovative city on earth turned poorest city in the U.S. within a generation) as a mission field to promote capitalistic entrepreneurship to combat proverty. He said:

“We can see poverty change by unleashing the entrepreneurial, enterprising spirit that God has placed within each and every person within our community. When we begin to see them not just as mouths that consume, but minds that create, God restores flourishing”5

In this short blog, my modest hope was just to introduce others to the the rich foundation upon which capitalism was founded. Sure, there are abuses but that does not mean it should be thrown out, baby, bathwater, and all.